Influenza in Our Neighborhood

Flu season is in full force in our area. Many schools, long term care facilities, and workplaces are seeing people become ill with Influenza, or more commonly called flu. Chances are, you know someone who has the flu or flu-like symptoms. These symptoms may include, fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, extreme tiredness, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. A person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own eyes, mouth or nose. Each flu season, different flu viruses spread and affect people differently based on their body’s ability to fight infection. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu and spread it to friends, co-workers, and family. In the United States, millions of people have to visit the doctor because of flu and hundreds of thou­sands are hospitalized from flu complications each year.

With this in mind, what are the best ways to prevent us from getting sick? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends three steps.

  1. Get the flu shot. This may be best done prior to the emergence of the flu in a community because it takes a full two weeks for the vaccine to take effect. It’s never too late to get one, just know that you may not be covered for 14 days.
  2. Take everyday actions to prevent germs from infecting you. Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness. These drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. Antiviral drugs work best when started in the first two days of symptoms to treat people who are very sick (such as those who are hospitalized) or people who are sick with flu symptoms and who are at increased risk of severe flu illness.

People infected with flu shed virus and may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick to about 5-7 days after getting sick. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems. This means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick. Continue to cover coughs and sneezes and wash hands even after you return to work. It is important to know that even if you don’t have a fever, you may have flu and be contagious if you get flu symptoms.

For more information on Flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/flu. Or call Four Corners Health Department at (402) 362-2621 or toll free 877-337-3573. Or send email to info@fourcorners.ne.gov. Visit our new website at www.fourcorners.ne.gov.